In most cases, children, or anyone under the age of 18, are prohibited from bringing a lawsuit on their own behalf. When a child is injured by the negligence of another party, questions arise concerning how to bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer to seek compensation for any injuries and loss the child has sustained.
How Can Injured Children Sue?
Basically, there are only two options in Missouri and Illinois:
- The child can wait until he or she reaches the age of a18, or
- An adult can bring the lawsuit on behalf of the child.
In Missouri, except in the case of medical malpractice lawsuits where a child must file by his or her 20th birthday, a child has until his or her 23d birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit against the wrongdoer. An adult, however, can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the child any time before he or she reaches the age of 18.
Which Adults Can Sue on Behalf of an Injured Child?
The lawsuit can be brought by a parent, a legal guardian, any person appointed by the judge or any other person permitted by state law. However, if the case is brought on behalf a child against a parent, the parent being sued cannot represent the child in the matter, as this would be a conflict of interest.
How do the Courts Deal with Lawsuits Brought on Behalf of Children?
When an adult brings a lawsuit on behalf of a child, the court recognizes that the child’s interests are being represented by someone who may not necessarily have the child’s best interests in mind. Therefore, there are various safeguards in place to protect the interests of the child. Missouri law imposes stricter scrutiny on parents’ decisions to settle on behalf of their child and requires that any settlement of a claim on behalf of a minor be approved by the court.
How Are Settlements on Behalf of Children Approved?
After a settlement has been reached, the court will hold a Minor Settlement hearing to review and approve the settlement. This will involve the judge appointing someone, usually an attorney who has nothing to do with the case (called a guardian ad litem), to review the settlement and report to the judge as to whether that attorney believes the settlement to be fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the child. In addition, the court will usually appoint a conservator to handle the child’s funds and ensure that the money will not be used inappropriately by the parent.
If the court does not approve the settlement, it will not be enforceable. However, if the court does approve of the settlement, the child will be bound by it and barred from bringing another lawsuit for the same injury when he or she reaches the age of 18.
The laws regarding lawsuits by or on behalf of children are complicated and should be thoroughly understood. It is best to consult with a Missouri personal injury attorney regarding the specific rules applicable to your situation, so that the child’s chance to be fully compensated for any sustained injuries and losses is not ruined.
Contact a St. Louis Personal Injury Attorney
If you are the parent of a child who was suffered serious injuries as the result of someone else’s negligence, you may have many questions regarding how to receive compensation for your child’s injury. The attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe can provide you with professional advice regarding the personal injury concern. Call us today at (877) 678-3400 / Phone (314) 725-7700 to schedule an appointment or fill out one of our contact forms.